STA, 30 June 2020 - Contrary to previous announcements, Slovenia has decided not to delist Croatia as a Covid-19 safe country based on new assessments and steps taken by the country.
Jelko Kacin, the government spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday that even though the number of infections per 100,000 residents in Croatia has exceeded ten a day over the past fortnight, which merits the removal from the list, Slovenia believes Croatia will succeed in slowing down and eventually stopping the spread of infections in the coming days.
This is based on new assessments and Croatia's decision to close night clubs, venues that Kacin yesterday described as a major cause for concern.
"Based on an agreement between the countries' national [public health] institutes and a talk between both prime ministers, the Croatian government decided to adopt Slovenian action patterns and close night clubs as well as cancel such (massive) events," said Kacin, adding that Slovenia had hence come to a conclusion not to delist Croatia "at the moment".
He pointed out that Slovenia had given Croatia a chance to stem the spread of the infections by imposing the measures and thus lead by example among the Western Balkans countries.
Nuška Čakš Jager, the deputy head of the Centre of Infectious Diseases of the National Public Health Institute (NIJZ), earlier told the press that Croatia recorded 10.77 infections per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks.
Kacin pointed out that both countries kept regular contact on a daily basis, highlighting that removing Croatia from the list remained an option. Slovenia will keep closely monitoring the situation in the neighbouring country in cooperation with health experts, said the government spokesman, adding that the coronavirus spread trends were checked twice a day.
Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, who announced his resignation at the press conference, meanwhile said that the government had decided to keep Croatia on the list for now because the removal would "not change a thing for Slovenian citizens".
If Croatia was put on the yellow list, the Slovenian citizens would still be able to return to Slovenia from Croatia without having to quarantine, whereas Croatian citizens wanting to enter Slovenia would face different requirements. Only in case of exceptions they would not be required to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The situation will be re-assessed at the end of the week, Hojs added.
Statements by Croatian and Slovenian officials however indicate that things are not clear-cut at present.
Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović told the press he had no knowledge of any promises to Slovenia to close night clubs, nor of any decision by Croatian authorities to do so.
He acknowledged, however, that such a possibility was on the table if night clubs became coronavirus hotspots.
And Slovenian Health Minister Tomaž Gantar told Kanal A in the evening that the decision not to delist Croatia was not prudent and was difficult to understand. "I don't know at which level the decision was taken," he said.
Hojs also commented on the EU list of Covid-19 safe third countries, saying that Slovenia would append a special statement to the document in which the country would state that it reserved the right to keep forming its own green, yellow and red lists.
Member states are expected to lift restrictions on the external border as of 1 July in case of certain third countries based on the list, however Hojs pointed out that the list was merely a set of guidelines and that it was up to individual EU countries to decide upon opening borders to third country citizens.
The EU has set down an average of 16 infections per 100,000 residents over a fortnight as a limit for declaring a country Covid-19 safe.
The NIJZ plans to keep the standard of 10 infections per 100,000 residents for Slovenia will not lower its standards, said Kacin, adding that the final decision on categorising countries according to their epidemiologic situations would be up to the government.
Among third countries that are expected to see lifting of border restrictions on the EU external border on 1 July are also Serbia and Montenegro, the two countries that have been put on the Slovenian red and yellow lists, respectively.